Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you can’t improve your health.
May 12, 2020 — 12:30 p.m. EST
Monotony, lack of social stimulation, and loss of sleep are all things that can make your brain age faster. Unfortunately, due to stay-at-home orders, a lot of us are experiencing these things right now. If you've noticed you're spending too much time in front of the TV, or are simply looking for active brain games and projects you can do at home, these tips can help make a difference.
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According to Jim Kwik, mental expansion and brain fitness coach and New York Times best seller of Limitless: Upgrade Your Brain, Learn Anything Faster, and Unlock Your Exceptional Life, “Chronic stress shrinks your brain and compromises your immune system and makes you more susceptible to viruses, to cases of flu and colds."
Therefore, it's important to do what you can to relieve stress and anxiety for your brain's health. Here are a few things to avoid at home when trying to focus on relieving stress and anxiety plus games, puzzles, and apps you can check out that focus on brain health and improving cognitive function.
Turn Off the News
DoctorOz.com also spoke with Sandra Chapman, PhD, the chief director at the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas, who says it's important for people to pay attention to how much information they're consuming right now. Information overload, or the consumption of so much information that it actually negatively impacts productivity, is real. “This overload harms our brain's efficiency, our mental alertness, and our decision-making capacity," says Chapman. “Moreover, it makes us shallower thinkers and lowers our ability for logical reasoning."
Chapman suggests limiting your daily news intake to twice a day — morning and early evening. She also suggests turning off news notifications on all of your devices. “Nourish your brain with positive stories and non-COVID conversations," says Chapman.
Kwik agrees: “There are algorithms to your mind, much like there are algorithms to social media. If you happen to engage with a lot of cat posts on Instagram and Facebook, the algorithm is going to show a lot more cats on your feed," he says. “Your mind has a similar algorithm. If you're always engaging in negative and frightening news, this will constantly lead to frightening thoughts." Kwik notes that when this happens, your mind begins to only focus on negative thoughts and can no longer focus on the big picture.
Kwik suggests service as an antidote to fear. “When you can contribute and take your focus away from the hardships of what you're personally going through and direct your energy to help others, you can reduce stress and improve brain health," he says. “It can be as easy as contacting a neighbor to make sure they're not alone, checking in on somebody who is older that might be more vulnerable, or providing food for first responders. How can you contribute in a unique way? How can you personally help? Maybe you love to listen to music and want to make a playlist of happy, uplifting quarantine songs for others to listen to," says Kwik.
Games, Apps & More to Help Keep Your Brain Sharp & Focused
Apps and podcasts: Chapman recommends the Brain Performance Challenge app as a fun way to test out your brain's cognitive performance. It breaks down challenges into “Innovation," “Strategy" and “Reasoning" categories. The best part is that it's free.
Kwik recommends checking out his 15-minute podcast, Kwik Brain, which provides tools to help you remember names better, learn a language that feels impossible, read two or three times faster, and improve comprehension. All of this leads to one goal: improving your focus.
Hands-on projects: Many people have turned to crafting in quarantine as a way to pass the time — but research shows it might also be beneficial to your brain. Experts at Harvard Medical School found evidence that activities that require manual dexterity can potentially help the brain build up new cells, which would provide a reserve that would protect from the cell loss that happens as we age. Try a Cross-Stitch Kit or include the family and go for a LEGO Kit.
Reading: Stimulating your brain can be as easy as picking up a book. “Reading is to your mind like exercise is to your body. It's one of the best things you can do to promote neuro-plasticity and novelty to your brain," says Kwik. “Fiction reading has been proven to improve empathy, creativity, storytelling, and EQ (emotional intelligence)," he adds.
Reading is also a good way to learn something new; you don't need to sign up for a college course. “Ask yourself, is there a specific topic you want to learn more about? There is a book for that," says Kwik. “Somebody who has decades of experience has put it into a book."
Regardless of which activities you choose to use, remember to engage in them at least once a day to take a break from everyday monotony and help strengthen your brain and improve your mood.